California pot growers split over marijuana legalization
October 4, 2016
Due to concerns over potential competition and burdensome regulation, many California marijuana growers plan to vote against the November ballot measure on pot legalization. The initiative is still expected to pass. [Reuters]
The California Growers Association trade group took a neutral stance on Proposition 64, which would legalize marijuana for recreational usage. In a poll of its 750 growers, 31 percent of the farmers supported Prop. 64, 31 percent opposed it and 38 percent were undecided.
Hezekiah Allen, the executive director of the California Growers Association, said he has long looked forward to the day when he and thousands of pot farmers would no longer be outlaws. However, Allen said he cannot vote for Prop. 64, arguing it would result in an economic injustice.
Some pot farmers fear Prop. 64 will result in them being wiped out by competition from big business. Under the ballot measure, industrial-sized farms would be allowed after a five-year grace period.
If Prop. 64 passes, some growers may decide it is more lucrative to sell to states where marijuana remains illegal. That would drive them further underground.
Steve Dodge, the CEO of trade group Humboldt Growers Collective, said he is voting against the measure because it would allow regulatory inspections that some growers view as equivalent to warrantless searches. Growers are also concerned about the tax bills they will face, as well as expenses related to compliance with environmental regulations.
Stephen Dillon, the head of the Humboldt Sun Growers Guild, said it could cost growers $20,000 to $100,000 per farm to comply with environmental regulations. Dillon acknowledged, though, that the regulations would allow the state to revoke the licenses of growers who harm the environment by draining creeks for irrigation, dumping pesticide-laden runoff in the water supply or creating mountains of trash at their sites.
The Sun Growers Guild is split over Prop. 64. Its operations manager, small farmer Chrystal Ortiz, said she supports the initiative because it would eliminate or reduce most criminal penalties for marijuana offenses, which would primarily help “black and brown underprivileged people.”